Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today strongly questioned President Obama’s decision not to fully fund the needs of federal Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) offices in his recent $399 million supplemental budget request for the Department of Homeland Security. The request, meant to support increased CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations along the Southwest border, includes only $6.5 million to fund 30 new CBP customs officers at ports of entry across the nation’s border with Mexico.
Grijalva wrote a letter to Obama June 10 requesting “$300 million for the CBP and the General Services Administration to upgrade technology and infrastructure and ensure adequate CBP staffing across our southwestern border.” As the letter notes, “The Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority, comprising Nogales International Airport, Morley Pedestrian Gate, Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry and the Mariposa (Nogales West) Port of Entry, reports a current operational deficit of 100 full time officers for both commercial and non-commercial operations. Douglas needs an additional 30 officers and San Luis needs another 40.”
Obama’s request for only 30 new port of entry agents will not come close to addressing those needs, Grijalva said after the request was announced.
“I’m dismayed that 1,200 National Guard troops will be sent to the border without any kind of serious structural upgrade to the long-term CBP operations in the region,” Grijalva said. “Making our border truly secure from smuggling and other criminal activities will require customs inspection manpower levels that we’re well short of at this point, and the president had a chance to fix that with this request. The fact that he didn’t do so is very disappointing.”
Grijalva said he supports the proposed budget from House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, which includes $208.4 million for 1,200 additional Border Patrol agents deployed between the ports of entry along the border and $136 million to add 500 additional officers at ports of entry.
“Our border officials and agencies must be given the staff, technology and infrastructure they need,” Grijalva’s letter says. “I fear that if we do not start training additional Customs officers now, we may lose a cost-effective opportunity to seal off the southwestern border to illegal activity and protect the cross-border economy vital to Arizona and the nation.”
“The people on the ground who work on border issues every day have made their needs clear for a long time,” Grijalva said after hearing of Obama’s request. “There’s no reason not to give them the resources they need.”
As just one example, Grijalva pointed to a June 23 letter to him from the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority: “Staffing to need is the key. To say that CBP only needs an additional 30 officers is a severe underestimation of the need at the border.”